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A Chinese study found that older people who took part in intellectual activities, such as reading, playing games or even betting on horse racing, had a lower risk of developing dementia, or might delay its onset.

The study followed 15,582 community-living Chinese individuals aged 65 or older who were considered free of dementia. They were followed for several years.

Allen Lee and his colleagues, writing in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, said dementia was a major public health concern worldwide, and finding ways to delay or prevent its onset was now a key priority,

They set out to determine whether intellectual activity reduced the risk of dementia in older adults, independent of other healthy lifestyle practices such as regular physical exercise, adequate fruit and vegetable intake, and not smoking.

The study team found that daily participation in intellectual activities was associated with a significantly lower risk of dementia several years later, independent of other health behaviors, physical health limitations, and socio-demographic factors.

Active participation in intellectual activities, even in late life, might help prevent dementia in older adults, they concluded.